2.18 London to Port Sudan

For my formerly British readers, a bit more about London of 1913: the aristocratic missionary families and the slums of Whitehall.

November 19,1913 – December 31, 1913

In the hagiography C. T. Studd  Athlete and Pioneer, Studd’s son-in-law Norman Grubb describes Studd’s renunciation of his family inheritance as part of Studd’s missionary belief in radical reliance on divine providence.  Gauging by Hayes’ experience with Studd’s extended family in London, the renounced fortune must have been sizable:  Hayes marveled at the servility of British servants while at tea with Studd’s mother – “quite a lovely and gracious old lady” – at Hyde Park Gardens;  served as  “exhibit A” for  “a congregation of the froth and bubble of this great city” at Ashley Gardens in Westminster, and  stayed three days with Martin J. Sutton, 63 year-old husband to C.T. Studd’s 26 year-old daughter Grace at Wargrave Manor overlooking Henley-on-Thames.  Sutton graciously picked up Hayes’ hotel tab at the Wilton as well; in return, Hayes allowed Sutton to introduce him as the hyphenated Hayes-Perkins to the reverend Webb-Peploe – “but I think I’ll drop mine when I leave London.”

Hanmer William Webb-Peploe

When swimming in the cream of British Aristocracy threatened to overwhelm Hayes’ egalitarian sensibilities, first he tried chatting with the liveried staff.  Rebuffed by the butler, he went walking on the streets of London.  On his first walk he met a pair of “bunco men.”  A “presentable young man” introduced himself to Hayes as, Patrick Murphy, an Australian Sheep farmer.  Shortly, a “heavily walking man of great stature” dropped a package on passing by.  As the large man ignored their shouts, Hayes had to run him down to return the packet which turned out to contain 3,000 pounds in 5 pound notes.  From here Hayes’ account continues like the internet fraud popular a few years ago:  the large man’s brother, Dinny, “had emigrated to Ameriky and struck oil, died and left him $3,000,000 with the proviso that 50,000 pounds be given to charity, the recipient to say mass for the Brother Dinny’s soul.  Protestant prayers would be all right too, but the recipient had to put up 500 pounds to show sincerity.  If Hayes didn’t know from the start he was being scammed, a glance at Patrick Murphy’s hands made it clear to him:  “They were as smooth and soft as a woman’s, one who never soils her lovely palms” – decidedly not the hands of a sheep farmer.  Eventually Hayes offered to put up 10 pounds if he could go along to an audience with the pope.  The two film-flam men gave him up as “a dead one” and a few days later Hayes read in the morning papers that the pair had been arrested.

On his next walk, Hayes donned his “second best suit, not fit for the Wilton or elsewhere on the West End,” and slipped out for a tour of the London slums around Whitechapel.

Westworth Street. Whitechapel of London
From a Photograph by F. Frith and Co.

“The streets are narrow and twisted, covered with grime of centuries and filled with playing children of the slums.  It is as different as day from night, the contrast of Grace Sutton serving at one end of the table and her aged Nestor at the other, waited on by stiff backed servants in livery.  Here are 3,000,000 people never a week from want.  There are children with stunted, misshapen bodies and with faces like those of a hunted animal.”  Hayes continues for a couple of pages:  fallen women, ragged clothing, bloated barmaids, food of poorest quality, and always some wherewithal for “the cup that cheers and lies.”  Perhaps Hayes unintentionally critiques the mission work of his aristocratic hosts who travel halfway round the world to Africa with Whitehall within walking distance; he doesn’t write that critique directly, but on returning to the Wilton, then to some evangelistic services in the Wimbledon suburb, he does go this far:   “There, amid the enthusiasm of the better fed and better clothed sisters and brothers of the submerged where I had been, we listened to their peans (sic) of praise and songs of joy, forgetting the dingy East end and all its pathos.”

After outfitting at the Army & Navy stores in Victoria street, a flurry of dinners, that photography course, and a final meeting with Martin Sutton who, “is much at sea concerning his father-in-law’s [Grace’s father, C. T. Studd, ten years younger than Sutton] doings in Africa, and asks me to write him, telling what is actually happening there,”  Hayes finally got away from London on December 11 by taxi to Frenchurch St. Station, then by train to Tilbury, and onto there British India liner Golconda.

SS Golconda

Of course Hayes travels second class.  The Golconda carries only eight other passengers: “All men, so it looks like a good trip.”  The Lascar crew of 155 gather on the afterdeck wearing white jibbehs bowing, kneeling and standing in prayer every afternoon.  The crew looks foolish to the passengers, the passengers look destined for hell to the crew.  “What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison, all over the world.”

On a smooth sea through the Strait of Gibralter, Hayes “tried to get a snapshot of Tarifa as we passed, but it was too far away.”  A howling gale sweeping a raw drizzle down off the Alps welcomed the Golconda to Marseilles where news came of the sudden death of Martin J. Sutton.  Hayes had had a “certain premonition of ill tidings coming into port,” that he retrospectively attributes to the death of Sutton who had shown kindness to him in London.

Chateau d’if

Hayes’ tour of Marseilles included the Rue Cannibiere (sic) “dating from the time of Rome and Greece in their greatness… a show street if there ever was one,” and the Chateau D’if “where the prisoner of Chillon-no, some old-time captive was put on cold storage, and it was the right place for him; for how cold this place is, with the mistral sweeping down off the Alpes Maritimes!”

Leaving Marseilles, past Corsica, and Sardinia, Hayes falls in with fellow American passenger, Charley Fanton, who says he’s fifty but looks seventy, sailing toward Aden, “where he will set up an electric plant for the city.”  Fanton spent twenty years in Russia “acquiring nihilist ideals,” and has just come from oil company wars in Mexico where he fought for Standard Oil.  Before that he worked on the Madiera-Marmore Railway construction in Brazil where kidnapped Germans marooned there died like flies in the winter.  Of course, to Hayes, Fanton, a kindred spirit, “is a likable chap, a good buddy for a trip like this one.”  At Naples, Hayes and Fanton bypassed the dockside sirens and the glass houses with naked dancing girls in search of “real knowledge of Italian city life.”  Mostly they learned inhabitants of Naples ignore the ash regularly settling on the town from the volcano at Vesuvius “going their several ways as people do all over the world.”

Arriving in Port Said on Christmas Eve 1913, “All the crowd are jolly tonight.  With usual regard for the birth of Christ everybody is celebrating with wine and song.”  Earlier in the day, Hayes had delivered gifts to some friends from Los Angeles working at a girl’s school, “training them in European culture and learning,” in Port Said.  Because they knew Hayes was “a Nasrani infidel,” the girls dined unveiled, their “dark eyes shaded by extra long eyelashes” watching his every bite.  If eating unveiled before ‘an infidel’ seems confused, the following explanation of the girl’s future reads as hopelessly ill-informed, nevertheless Hayes writes:  “The Americans told me they would soon enter harems, for all these girls are daughters of sheiks and emirs, or prominent business men of the Egyptian cities who have parental feeling for their children and wish to give them some instruction in the ways of the dominant Unbelievers who rule Port Said.”

Dining with 200 young women on Christmas Eve beat “the usual booze comedy” pulled aboard the Golconda steaming down the Suez Canal the next day hands down.

Port Sudan

On the last day of 1913, Hayes debouched from the Golconda once again stepping onto African soil at Port Sudan among “ragged pilgrims… swarthy Greek merchants… inky black Sudanese and suntanned Indian traders.”  After the typical shakedown at customs, in another week he’ll be steaming south up the Nile!

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